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Veterans kayak program: '4 Star Award' winner

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On December 2, 2013, the Tennessee Recreation and Parks Association awarded the Chattanooga Department of Youth & Family Development the prestigious “4Star Award,” which recognizes the best overall programs, facilities and marketing in the state of Tennessee. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the “4 Star Aquatics Program Award” or “Veterans Kayak Program,” which the Department of Youth and Family’s Therapeutic Recreation division created in January 2013

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The offers free kayaking classes for veterans and their families at the Brainered Recreation Center. The classes are primarily for veterans with disabilities but are open to all vets and their families.

Elaine Adams, the therapeutic recreation coordinator with the city, obtained an $ 18,000 grant from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs through the United States Paralympic Committee.

The grant, according to reporter Todd South, pays for equipment and training to accommodate paddlers with disabilities. Paddling classes began in the Brainered Recreation Center indoor pool, allowing paddlers time to learn the basics before practicing on open water

Taz Randles and Chuck Ayars, both Army war veterans, believe the physical aspect of the paddling classes can complement work counselors do to reintegrate veterans into civilian life.

Chris Atkins works with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at the Chattanooga VA Clinic. He reports that of the 1000 vets that visit the clinic each year, the majority suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and chronic back pain.

For those veterans, opportunities to do hands-on activities, especially with other veterans, can new ways to reclaim their lives

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